Amid wave of abortion bans, Elizabeth Warren proposes plan to protect reproductive rights

Warren calls on Congress to pass a federal law preventing states from outlawing specific medical procedures

Published May 20, 2019 5:30AM (EDT)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (Getty/Ethan Miller)
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (Getty/Ethan Miller)

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Two days after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a ban on almost all abortions in the state, and with the Republican-controlled Missouri legislature poised to pass its own regressive law, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called on the U.S. Congress to step in and pass federal laws to prevent further erosion of reproductive rights.

Detailing her latest plan since she announced her presidential run in January, the Massachusetts Democrat called on lawmakers to block a potential overturning of Roe v. Wade by removing states' rights to legislate which medical procedures are and aren't permitted in each state.

Denouncing extremists for throwing women's rights and the country into a "dark moment," Warren wrote in a Medium post and on Twitter that advocates, especially those in Congress, must fight against the GOP's anti-choice agenda.

"People are scared and angry," Warren wrote. "And they are right to be. But this isn’t a moment to back down  —  it’s time to fight back."

Under Warren's plan, Congress would pass laws that prohibit states from passing their own measures blocking people from accessing certain medical procedures and medical providers from performing specific procedures, including abortions.

"Under the Supremacy Clause of our Constitution, federal law preempts state law," Warren wrote. "And because these federal protections would be valid on a variety of constitutional grounds  —  including equal protection and the commerce clause  —  they would ensure that choice would remain the law of the land even if the Supreme Court overturns Roe."

Warren wrote that Congress should also pass laws pre-emptively blocking Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers, also known as TRAP laws, which impose restrictions on abortion clinics to make it impossible to deliver care, and should repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion services. The rule keeps abortion care out of reach for many low-income and marginalized women who rely on Medicaid and the Indian Health Service for their health care.

The passage of the so-called "Alabama Human Life Protection Act" on Wednesday prompted outrage from women's rights groups, Democratic lawmakers, and even provoked ultraconservatives, including televangelist Pat Robertson and Fox News commentator Tomi Lahren, to condemn the law as too extreme.

Under the law, abortion would be illegal — and punishable by up to 99 years in prison — at every stage of pregnancy. The Republican-controlled legislature rejected exceptions in the case of incest or rape; the only exception included in the law is when a woman's life is at risk.

Missouri lawmakers are expected to vote Friday on H.B. 126, a bill that would ban abortion after eight weeks. Georgia and Ohio have also passed abortion bans in recent weeks which prohibit women from obtaining abortion care after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women even know they are pregnant.

In herMedium post, Warren explained how Republicans hope to pass extreme laws which will be challenged in court and then proceed to the Supreme Court — giving them the opportunity to overturn Roe v. Wade.

These extremist Republican lawmakers know what the law is  —  but they don't care. They want to turn back the clock, outlaw abortion, and deny women access to reproductive healthcare. And they are hoping the Supreme Court will back their radical play.

I'll be blunt: It just might work. President Trump has packed the courts with extreme, anti-choice judges. Senate Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat and rammed through the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh last year in order to cement an anti-choice majority on the Supreme Court.

Warren noted that the anti-choice laws recently passed in several states are dangerous as well as undemocratic, representing the will of a small minority. More than 70 percent of Americans — including 52 percent of Republicans — do not believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

"Congress should do its job and protect their constituents from these efforts," said Warren.

The plan won praise from women's rights advocates on social media.

The senator also recognized the efforts of "the women of color who have championed the reproductive justice movement" by demonstrating how access to abortion care is only one right American women must continue to fight for.

"We must go beyond abortion, to ensure access to contraception, STI prevention and care, comprehensive sex education, care for pregnant moms, safe home and work environments, adequate wages, and so much more," wrote Warren. "We must build a future that protects the right of all women to have children, the right of all women to not have children, and the right to bring children up in a safe and healthy environment."

By Julia Conley

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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